Paramedics, Kids and Ducks
In an emergency, looking calm is key.
By Adam Dunlap, Mary Greeley Medical Center Paramedic
A paramedic’s encounter with pediatric patients can range from simple scrapes and cuts to cardiac arrest and severe trauma.
Dealing with sick kids never gets easier over time. It’s tough to see a child in pain, experiencing a severe medical illness or trauma. This is compounded for EMS providers when they have children of their own.
‘Be a Duck’
I’ve found the best technique to deal with this patient population – and their parents – is to be prepared, be competent, and stay calm. We try to “Be a Duck.” That is, under the surface of the water we can be nervous and scared, but on top of the surface we show a calm demeanor.
Our calmness cascades down to the patient and especially to the parents.
The parents actually become like a second patient in most instances, as we have to attend to their needs and questions as well.
Not Just Little Adults
Even the most experienced providers need tools to take care of pediatric patients. We use the Broselow Tape system, which is basically a long paper used to measure the child from head to toe. It provides the appropriate dose of medications and the size of needles and other equipment.
Children are not just little adults. They have their own unique needs and anatomy.
We stay up to date with the latest Pediatric Emergency standards. We are required to complete a “Pediatric Advanced Life Support” course annually, which is scenario-based and very challenging.
‘Paw Patrol’ and Other Distractions
On the scene, we employ a few strategies for keeping children calm. For older children, we explain everything that we are going to do before we do it. With smaller children, we use distraction. We might talk about their cool shoes or their “Frozen” or “Paw Patrol” T-shirt or pajamas. We give them stickers and let them hold our penlight or touch the stethoscope.
We ask them questions to constantly keep them talking about something other than their injury. How many brothers and sisters do you have? What’s your favorite food? Have you been to Hawaii? How many quarters are in a $1.50?
If the child is afraid of needles, we can use intranasal devices to administer pain medication and anti-seizure meds up their noses.
On transfers, we will play their favorite music on a phone. We also can have mom or dad ride along with us.
Before the Emergency
Community relations play a big part in making kids comfortable with us. We want them to look to us as trusted friends when they need us.
We routinely host “Peds Tours” in which second graders take a tour of our hospital pediatric department. They get to meet us and see the inside of our ambulances. We share the message of calling 911 in an emergency, and help them know what to expect when we arrive. It’s not like what you see on TV!
As for advice to parents, just be a duck.
Your child will respond to the level of stress you are showing or not showing.